e l l i o t    k r o p

How We Waited

 

We waited for you, and when you did not come, most of us cried and thought that you would never come and that you forgot us. We waited at schools, and homes of friends, and even our own homes, the only homes we knew or one of the many. We waited in old shoes and no shoes and shoes passed down, in our mother’s arms and less often those of our fathers, and even without arms at all. But we were all disarmed somehow, like a broken argument, when you did not come.


Some of us could say the names we had for you and some of us could not say them but all of us had names for you. They sometimes tell some of us that you had names for us too, but that is less a certainty than maybe a hope. Unless, of course, you came back later, sometimes much later, and made up names, which we knew could not be the same as the names you could have called us before, but we pretended not to notice, or rebelled, or did absolutely nothing at all. And you said “sorry” or “I had to do what was right for me at the time” or “get over it” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or other smart things. And by the way, it did kill some of us, if not immediately, then over time, sometimes growing the emptiness inside us until we were as good as killed, or growing the fullness inside us until we couldn’t take it anymore, and killing cannot be judged right away, you just wait and see.


You should know that some of us thought of you for many years but that others did not, and that sometimes there were those who came and put their arms around us, and took us up, and held us in your place, and that sometimes you were replaced. Then we smiled most of the time when we thought of you because it was not you anymore, and the names we had for you were not for you then. However, when sometimes you came back and tried so hard to pretend that it had never happened and all is as it should be, then you should know that it is not as it should be and that you are very very wrong and that we will fight you forever and ever, and that you can wait now for it to get better just like we waited for you so long ago. You should also know that it will not get better the way you want it to, and that sometimes, when we all look back on it and how you tried later to make it better, we will smirk to ourselves, saying, “What were you thinking?” and “Did you really think this would work?” and “How stupid!” and then possibly, at least some of us, will not care about it very much. So wait for that. Wait and when it comes eat it, or wipe your tears with it, or just fuck off, because “you reap what you sow” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and other smart things, and you aren’t dead yet, are you?


Did you ever really hold us in your arms and look at us so long ago in our perfect newness and think to yourself that you would be happier not looking at us, or that there was something else you had to do right there and then so whoops you had to drop us, though maybe gently, or that there’s just so much life to live for you and that life owes itself to you because you are alive and who else would advocate that for you but you so go now you and pursue those marvelous dreams? Do you think that we should also do that? Because we would like to. But if you come back afterwards, then we can all say, “lesson learned”, about which we remind you now that we will be reminding you a lot, so please be prepared in case there’s a little bit of that life of yours that you may want to live up again in the future. That lesson will come back. It may get harder for you. That’s a bit of wisdom now, which later you will call another word, but before regret sets in, let’s just call it wisdom.


We all want to ask you just one question, we say, except the question is many things like, “How could you?” or “How could anyone?” or “What are you?” or “What are we?” or just “Why?” and if you try to answer you will see just how unsatisfactory that answer will be to us and how we will just ask it again and again and more still and you will never answer it even if you convince us that you already have. When you did not come for us so long ago, that gave us room to ask questions, made a little space, maybe like what you thought you needed to take, from us and in us that bit of space, like a little black hole that can never ever be filled, though you may have thought that you could come right on back and fill it because the black hole is missing you, and wow were you wrong, because a phenomenon like that is made by an explosion which happened when you left, and who exactly do you think you are to come and fill the place of an explosion? Excuse us, but it’s just a little hard to believe that you can explode like that, suck in all that space-time, make a dent in the universe, and just come back like nothing happened, like there was no explosion at all, pieced back together and ignoring the laws of nature and nurture.


There may be some of us who would like to salute you for doing what felt right for you at the time and would like you to know that when you are old and lonely sitting in your chair and it is your birthday and you would like any kind of sign that you matter, anything, then we will think about what is right for us right there at that moment, and make our decision. You would be surprised by how many of us take solace in this, but we would be more surprised by how many of us make that decision in your favor, which begs that old question even further of “How could you?” and “What are you?” and so on ad nauseam.


For those of you who finally found what you needed from your lives and did right by others and made up for lost time and did it all with other new precious ones you held in your arms, we do not want to take those arms away. No, instead we would like to relive over and over again how you did not do that with us. When you come back to us and show us a fun time and call the places where you bring us home, and make us say that it is—know that it is not. When you say to yourselves and others so insistently that you are indeed very good, and that there were circumstances out of your control, and what happened was a collision of forces from which you cleaned up the damage, and that you are still truly very good, keep in mind that we know what you are. We will always know what you are, and you will know we know, and think about how THAT will make YOU feel. Your feelings are so very important after all; otherwise you would not have made us wait while you did what was right for you.


When you pushed yourselves into our lives after you pulled yourselves out of them, we wondered what you thought our “best interests” were, because many of you liked to bring those interests up. Did they grow and accrue, for example, as we grew? Could you spend them after you saved them? Or are they a stagnant putrid thing to you? We wonder because there are so many reasons given for things on the behalves of “best interests”.


Are we happier when you are happier now that you are back, for those of you who are back, and is bonding something to work on much like a multiplication table or interest calculations? Did our interests grow and change to match your own or is it just a coincidence, and if so, what a happy one for you, and if you are happier that must mean a whole lot to you and probably us by association. Do primary homes make more sense to you or constant transitions—what do you think—really, how will you argue? It’s all very interesting, these arguments, and in the long run, we promise to remember them. To keep those interests best. Does it sound better to come back in our lives and take us away from those who were always there or to come and go every once in a while? What do you prefer? No, no, really, we insist you decide and fill reams of paper with ink on which you and your lawyers scribble it all down, and fill our ears with that paper, and fill our minds with papery goodness. Just make sure to document it, because things get so very twisted up in people’s minds that people shouldn’t be trusted and minds are so wishy-washy changeable that they make us laugh and laugh.


When you do decide what’s best for us and you and everyone all at once, will you live up to the promises and the fights and the time you spend and the crying and the taking and giving that must all happen? Or will you make us wait?


Here’s how we waited for you. We picked our noses and shat on our clothes. We lay on the floor and cried. For days and days. We filled ourselves with so much hate and distrust that you wouldn’t recognize us if you ever compared us to the us you left. We bit and screamed and refused to sleep. We forgot the names of things and renamed them over and again. We lied. We stole. We hurt ourselves or others or both. We took good things and left them or corrupted them. We pled innocent and guilty all at once. And we were victims, all of us, forever victims of you and us and everything. It made us as special as you once could have and now cannot.


Here’s how you left. Just like that.


Consider this please and do respond. Please address our concerns. Please fix it. Please try. We feel we deserve some answers. We have been waiting a long time, and no matter what you do we will still be waiting, even if you answer. We wait like this.

 

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ELLIOT KROP has been writing fiction for over five years. His short stories and poetry can be found in Underground Voices Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, Joyland Magazine, Johnny America, the Foghorn, Shelf Life Magazine, and Polutona. He holds a PhD in mathematics and lives near Atlanta.


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